Social Consensus Information Influence on Helping Behaviour

In today’s context, individuals tends to display more helping behaviours towards an aid appeal program when they have strong social consensus information as it has an impact towards individuals’ pro-social behaviour (Bekkers & Wiepking, 2011). Many past research conducted on social consensus information with outcome indicating that individuals with strong consensus knowledge has an positive influence in their supportive behaviours (Smith & McSweeney, 2007), results also indicates that people who receive strong consensus information has an increase in their helping behaviour compared to those who did not receive (Sechrist & Milford, 2007).

Past studies revealed that the key point in consensus effects are identification and familiarity as both of them generates a encouraging effect on willingness to support as the research outcome revealed that people often utilize consensus information on unfamiliar groups and also prefer to gathers information pertaining to the unknown group (Sechrist & Stangor, 2007).

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Having strong consensus information is advantageous as it also seeks to understand why people arise with negative behaviours in respect to unknown groups where there’s barely or no knowledge of that particular group (Sechrist & Young, 2011). Past research revealed that consensus information is an important moderator on helping behaviours as individuals whom are provided with knowledge that other’s holding favourable thoughts towards that particular group has an increase in their willingness to support for a cause and the research outcome also revealed that intergroup’ attitudes has an impact on individual’s behaviours (Sechrist & Milford, 2007).

According to Zagefka, Brown, Hopthrow and Moura (2012), people who possessed strong consensus information has an increase in people’s willingness to support towards an aid appeal program, for example, the required help perceived is urgent and donations received perceived to be low (Zagefka, Brown, Moura & Hopthrow, 2011). However, there are studies arguing that such information could either increase or decrease one’s intention to donate depending on its objective, if the main objective merely to induce awareness; such intention could decrease the possibility of supporting behaviours (Smith & Schwarz, 2012).

In this study, it was hypothesized that if individual who possesses strong social consensus information will increase in their helping behaviour compared to those individual with weak social consensus information and the results revealed that people whom have strong consensus information has an increase in their helping behaviour, for instance, being supportive towards an aid appeal program.

Method
Participants

This study consist of 60 participants whom are undergraduate students undertaking social psychology in an Australian University with a mean age of 23.7 years old (SD = 3.72). The participants consisted of 42 females and 18 males, where 55 students being Singaporean residents or citizens.

Materials

The 21-item Attitudes towards Humanitarian Aid programs survey was constructed to assess participants’ attitudes, feelings and beliefs towards aid appeal program. The first two items of this survey were designed to measure the response rate in regards to an urgent aid assistance whether there will be a strong or weak donation response based on a scale from 1 (Not at all) to 10 (very much so) and the next 19-items in the survey were designed to measure participants’ thoughts, feelings and beliefs in regards to these aid efforts.

The key areas in this survey were related to helping behaviour, for instance: own support for the donation was measured with two items: “I will support these aid appeals program” and “I will recommend these aid appeals program” and action intention to donate were assessed through three items: “Intention to tell others about this aid appeal, intention to make an donation and intention to donate maximum amount afforded toward the appeal” from Zagefka et al. (2010) where participants were told to rate based on a scale from 1 (Not at all) to 10 (very much so, and there were also a range of other questions integrated into this survey as distractor questions where these questions were not be used as a part of the analysis.

A demographic data section that request for participant’s information such as gender, age, nationality status was also included.

Procedures

During the first week of lesson, students enrolled in the social psychology module were offered to participate in a newspaper article survey for Haitian earthquake and subsequent recovery efforts. There were two different types of the newspaper articles where one underline on strong support and the other underline on weak support, all 60 student participants were separate into pairs and receive either the newspaper article emphasizing on strong support or the newspaper article emphasizing on weak support. Participants were given a sufficient amount of time to go through the articles and were told not have any discussion with other classmates in regards to the survey and were instructed to complete and submit them back to the lecturer before the lesson ends.

Results

In this study, an one-way between groups analysis were conducted and the data found an significant different in participants who possess strong consensus information compared to those who possess weak consensus information, results indicating that people who possess strong consensus has an increase in their helping behaviour than those with weak consensus information. The alpha level where mean differences between groups are considered as significant different is .05 for all test and the results shown that participants with strong social consensus information (M = 5.52, SD = 1.38) has a higher mean compared to those participants with weak social consensus information (M = 4.45, SD = 0.99) towards being supportive for an aid appeal.

Inspection of the skewness, kurtosis and Shapiro-Wilk statistics indicated that the assumption of normality was supported for each of the two conditions. Levene’s statistic was non-significant, F (1, 58) = 1.249, p = .268, and thus the assumption of homogeneity of variance was not violated. The ANOVA result was statistically significant, indicating that the participants’ attitudes and helping behaviour towards an aid appeal program were influenced by the amount of social consensus information they received, F (1, 58) = 11.893, p = .001, ?z2 = .170. From this result, we can attribute 17% of the variability in participants’ attitudes and supportive behaviours to the amount of social consensus information they received and according to Cohen’s (1988) conventions, this is considered as a large effect.

Discussion

As anticipated, results shown that participants with strong consensus information have an increase in their helping behaviour compared to participants with weak consensus information. This rejects the null hypothesis that there is no difference in helping behaviour in individual who possess strong social consensus information to those individual who possess weak social consensus information. The finding supports that the amount of consensus information received by individual has an increase or decrease in their helping behaviour towards an aid appeal effort.

Despite controlling for confounds, there are several limitations in this study where one of the limitation was the demographic imbalance in the samples in respect to the participant’s age and gender. Regarding gender issue, the samples in this experiment were uneven as it consist of more female students than males where there are exploration results reported that females has a tendency to donate more than guys does, showing that females are more altruistic, therefore the results of this study may be inadequate in describing both genders having the same levels of helping behaviour (Simmons & Emanuele, 2007). In regards to age, the sample generally included more youthful students where the average age were 23.7 years old and as such the older students might not have been adequately spoken in this study as there are no older students presented and such factor could yield different results (Bekkers & Wiepking, 2011).

Another limitation in this study was the sample size as it was limited to 60 undergraduate psychology students in an Australian university and this considers as a threat to external validity where the results may not be applicable to other students in different universities or students enrolling in different courses as the chosen participants in this study were from the same university and this hinders generalization to the population (Bekkers & Wiepking, 2011). Nonetheless, by doing so, this study was able to maintain its internal validity as it controls for confounding variables such as the university syllabus.

This experiment could be further improvise by including a more extensive scope or age, a well-adjusted of gender, better sample size and settings arrangement as this test was carried out throughout a social psychology lesson where learners may have the capacity to anticipate what’s impending, it would be better if the study could be led in a more extensive connection, for instance, a online-based survey where students from different colleges or different courses have an opportunity to participates and needed to logged in with their understudy id so analyst could without much of a stretch recognize their demographics data, for example, status, gender, and age.

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